Whether it's a burger grilled in the backyard during the summer, a thin fast food patty, or a towering stack of meat and toppings at a restaurant, everyone has a go-to burger—chefs included. Eater spoke with chefs around town to find out their favorites, and added a few burgers to our must-try list. Read on to find out which chef had an ex-girlfriend suspect he loved her hometown burger more than her, and which burger is almost as good as "any sexual or psychedelic experience" one chef has ever had.
Bourbon Steak has a half dozen burgers on its menu and executive chef John Critchley knows his ground meat. His favorite burger is the Onion Soup Burger at Poste Moderne Brasserie. "It's made with ground short ribs and is topped with caramelized onions and cheese," he says. "It's like eating French onion soup in burger form. It's one of my favorite soups and the beefiness from the burger replicates the beef broth. It's delicious."
A fan of one of those Bourbon Steak burgers is Victor Albisu, chef at forthcoming restaurants Del Campo and Taco Bamba, who gets the turkey burger. "It's all about the toppings," he says. "Guacamole, pepper jack cheese, and harissa aioli."
At The Source, chef Scott Drewno looks forward to his visits to California for—what else?— In-N-Out Burger. "I'm an East Coast guy, so I hate to admit it, but my favorite is In-N-Out's double double animal style. That's the real deal. It's always made to order, and grilled onions and Thousand Island dressing on a burger can't be beat. I get out to California a couple of times a year and I have one every time. But that's probably what also makes them my favorite—I don't get to have them all the time."
Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya also travels for his burger fix. He loves Kopp's Frozen Custard in Brookfield, Wisconsin. "The burger has some butter used in cooking it," he says. "I fell in love with it the first time I had it. To me, it's the best-designed burger, as well as the best tasting. In fact, I love Wisconsin and spent time in Madison. It's one of my favorite cities in the world. My girlfriend at the time used to bring me back one from her way back from her hometown. She used to say I was happier seeing the Kopp's bag than seeing her."
Haidar Karoum, Proof's executive chef, swears by Ray's Hell Burger (which is currently closed, but the burgers are available at Ray's the Classics and Ray's to the Third). Karoum gets his burger with bacon, caramelized onions, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. "It's just a really good burger," he says. "Nothing too fancy, just very honest."
P.J. Clarke's Thomas Schoborg is another fan of Ray's. "What I love so much about it is that the burger is very simple and there's a diverse array of toppings," he says. "You can customize it to fit your mood. I like the au poivre burger, which is peppercorn crusted with grilled onion and is topped with pepper jack cheese and applewood-smoked bacon."
Bayou Bakery's David Guas is a huge burger fan and couldn't pick just one. His favorite burger close to his house is Joe's Amazing Burgers in McLean, Virginia. "I get the Butcher's Choice, which is made with beef from The Organic Butcher of Virginia shop next door," he says. "It comes with aged double cheddar, horseradish mustard, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and smoked mayo. Their onion rings are also some of the best out there." When he's downtown, Guas goes to Burger, Tap & Shake. "When I'm up for something spicy I get the Apache Sweat Lodge burger. It has chilies, pepper jack, smoked onions, and their XXX Sauce, which has got a lot of kick to it." And when he's on the go, Guas hits up Five Guys. "I keep it simple and get their single patty burger with yellow mustard, ketchup and pickles."
John Melfi, chef de cuisine at Blue Duck Tavern, also frequents Five Guys because it's "good and greasy and the French fries are great." He gets a double burger with everything on it.
Lara Stuckey of Fluffy Thoughts Cakes is another fan of Joe's Amazing Burgers and gets the Veggie Deluxe, which is "an organic veggie burger, spinach, ruby onion, ripe tomato, housemade pickles, and aioli." She adds, "If I'm being good I get it bunless where they serve it on a salad and if I'm being bad I get a side of their house-battered beer tempura onion rings and Black Russian milkshake."
Dolcezza's Robb Duncan favors the Buck's Prime Steerburger at Buck's Fishing & Camping. "I get it loaded with pepper jack cheese and applewood-smoked bacon," he says. "It's made using a wood burning grill and served with a side of chipotle mayonnaise." If that's not enough to encourage you to head there for dinner tonight, Duncan adds that it's "almost as good as any sexual or psychedelic experience I have ever had!"
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